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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Counting Stars

“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Gen 15:5

Living near a major city makes it difficult to look up in the sky and see anything. Some nights, when there is no moon, you can see a few stars, but nothing like the country sky in the summer when you can lie on your back and try to count. Even as you look, more and more stars seem to appear, and this is just the beginning. Astronomers tells us that there are more galaxies in the universe than stars in our galaxy. Whether their study and speculation prove accurate is not the point. That it is more impossible than ever to count the stars is and God promises Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars.

The goodness of God's heart and God's promises to us is beyond our ability to count or manage. We can only pause in awe, wonder and gratitude, and stopping to celebrate God's goodness is even more necessary during Lent. Lent is the time that we take time to recall the infinite love of God in the Christ. God sends his son to accompany us in life and remind us of God's promises. Even though Jesus will suffer and die because he tells the truth and is the truth about God, he does not hesitate. When his disciples suggest that he might want to slow down and walk away from Jerusalem in order to avoid the wrath of the Jewish leaders, he pushes on and reminds us to do the same. He will not abandon us, he will show us the way, and no matter what happens to us, as long as we live the truth of his love, God will be at our side.

Tonight, count a star or two and be grateful.

What gets in the way of committing ourselves totally to God's path for us?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Be Perfect

"Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Mt 5:48

Perfectionism is a terrible burden, and one which afflicts many in the church. So concerned with doing things right and pleasing God, they forget that salvation is not something to be earned, but to be welcomed and enjoyed. God wants to save us. We have only to accept our salvation and live the Gospel with integrity

The word "perfect" in Matthew's gospel might better be translated as be complete in your submission to God and God's way for you and for the world. It surely does not mean that we are to worry about every small lapse in our concentration or behavior, as if salvation depended upon us.

Perhaps if we took more time to watch our children as they give themselves over to a game or a puzzle we might understand the intent of the Gospel more deeply. Children often seem able not to be botherd by the noise around or within them as they enter a world of fantasy and delight, and they regularly resist the call of their parents to put aside their game or project, even when being called to supper!

Each day we are called to be like children on our pilgirm journey. When we begin each day by remembering God's desire for us, God will guide us to where we need to be.

Today, be simple. Give yourself to God completely.

What most impedes your commitment to live in God and for God?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Chair of Peter (2)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mt 16:16

St Peter is often faulted for speaking too quickly and rashly, but in today's Gospel he answers for all of us, and his response sets a tone for Lent. If we are successful at nothing else during this penitential season, we need to reaffirm out commitment to the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

In a poignant moment, when Benedict XVI met with the Roman clergy a few days after announcing his resignation, the Sistine choir sang Palestrina's interpretation of this same passage from Matthew 16 as Benedict left the assembly, assuring him and us that the Gospel would always be a "rock" of safety for those who freely professed their faith, and that his role as Peter was shared with us all.

Lent is a good time to ask ourselves how we would answer Jesus' question about his identity. Is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, for us? Can others see and experience our belief by the quality of our faith life? The teaching that comes from the Chair of Peter, no matter how strongly any Pope tries to exercise his authority, will be empty unless believers everywhere live the Gospel everyday and open themselves to every form of formation and growth.

Today, sit down and ask God to help you live and reflect upon the gospel with integrity and power.

How do you understand the authority Jesus gives Peter?


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ask

"If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask." Mt 7:11

Asking for what we need can be difficult, embarrassing and uncomfortable. North Americans especially have been taught to be self reliant, independent and (dare we say it!) self centered. The simple bromide: Charity begins at home, while understandable, can also be code language and an excuse for not listening to the needs of the poor or people of other cultures and nations.

Nevertheless, Jesus is clear about this and it is a good meditation during Lent.
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Lk 14: 12-14
Inviting those in real need to eat with you or share your food reminds us that all of us have times in our lives when we cannot provide for ourselves, and the worst thing that can happen to us is to be made to feel foolish or weak by those who supply our basic needs. Jesus gave freely and reminds us to do the same.  "Freely you have received; freely give." Mt 10:8

Today, ask someone for help.

What circumstances make it most difficult for you to ask for help?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Contrition and Humility

"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." Ps 51

Contrition does us all good. A truly contrite person effects everyone around her. When we have true sorrow, it seeps out of us, like a rising tide, into the community. Experiencing a contrite person gives us the courage to seek reconciliation with those from whom we have been separated because of our sins and faults. Contrition is powerful.

The people of Niniveh are a powerful example of this. God tells Jonah to go through the great city of Niniveh warning people that if they do not have contrition and repent, they will be destroyed. Amazingly, the people and the king hear Jonah's warning almost immediately and change their lives. The King puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes to demonstrate his sorrow and contrition. The King's heartfelt action convinces God to spare Niniveh, and the point of the story is that God is ready and anxious to do this for all of us.

While Lent demands a new level of humility within and among us, we should not shrink from the task. Humility helps us see ourselves as we are, but not with despair. Authentic humility allows us to acknowledge our own weakness and ask God and those around us for the opportunity to change, and like contrition, it can move others to do the same.

Today, humble yourself by asking someone for forgiveness and renewal.

What keeps you from acknowledging your dependence on God?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Babbling at Prayer

"In praying, do not babble."

Especially when we are anxious, there is a temptation to use too many words in prayer as if the more we speak the easier it will be for God to hear us and conform to our will. This happens to all of us from time to time and we should not let it bother us inordinately, but it is important to practice silence.

Traditionally, Babel, as described in the book of Genesis, is God's punishment of those who are trying to shape a world that could reach into the skies and and make them like God. When God disperses the people and they develop their own languages, the unity that God desires as a way to offer him praise is lost.

The apostles often babbled. Peter is especially guilty of this. Often he pretends that he understands Jesus' needs more than the other apostles, and regularly puts his foot in his mouth. (Mt 16:22) Only at Pentecost, when Peter and the apostles submit themselves to God totally, are all the people of the world able to understand them when they speak in the power of the Spirit. The same can be true for us.

Today, be quiet at prayer. Sit in the silence of God's presence.

Why is it so difficult to be quiet at prayer?



Sunday, February 17, 2013

Be Holy

"'The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.'" Lv 19:1

The universal call to holiness is an important Catholic doctrine. In the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium we read, "Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness." (LG)

For many older Catholics this teaching may sound strange, even wrong. As Catholics who grew up and learned their catechism in the middle of the 20th century, they learned that bishops, priests and nuns were called to holiness, but they rarely heard of their own call. The Second Vatican Council tried to change this, but old ideas die slowly.

It should not surprise us that it is difficult to change, but it should not discourage us. Over time, we can learn and grow, but we must be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. A good place to start is reading the lectionary each day, or taking a course in Adult Religious education. Most important is to set aside a few minutes of quiet, reflection and prayer each day. All of this allows the Spirit to do God's work in us, and opens us to new possibilities and the holiness to which all of us are called.

Today, read the Gospel of the day slowly and savor it.

What inhibits your call to holiness?